Reinforcement Theory and Learning


Reinforcement theory, also called operant conditioning, is generally associated with the work of B. F. Skinner. In its simplest form, reinforcement theory suggests that behavior is a function of its consequences. Thus, behavior that results in pleasant consequences is more likely to be repeated, and behavior that results in unpleasant consequences is less likely to be repeated.

Reinforcement theory further suggests that in any given situation, people will explore a variety of possible behaviors. Future behavioral choices are affected by the consequences of earlier behaviors. Cognitions also play an important role. Thus, rather than assuming a mechanical stimulus-response linkage suggested by the traditional classical view of learning, contemporary theorists believe that people consciously explore different behaviors and systematically choose those that result in the most desirable outcomes.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Stimulus Generalization


Stimulus generalization refers to how people recognize the same or similar stimuli in different settings. In other words, it is the process by which they can generalize a contingent from one setting to another. Following an initial stimulus response consequence sequence, a person learns in behaviors likely to produce some kind of reinforcement. Later, when presented with a similar stimulus in different surroundings, he or she knows that the same response is likely to elicit a similar consequence.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Behavior Modification


The law of effect states that if behavior is reinforced it will tend to to be repeated. The kind of reinforcement and its timing are important aspects of behavior modification. Reinforcement can be positive or negative. Positive reinforcement strengthens the association between a response and its reward. A negative reinforcement can take the form of either withholding a positive reward or administering a “painful” punishment.

The closer positive reinforcement follows the desired behavior, the more likely it will be repeated. This can cause some problems in an organizational setting. For example, money has the potential for being an extrinsic reinforcer, but money is usually paid at regular intervals, which may occur too long after the behavior being reinforced. For this reason reinforcers such as praise and recognition are easier to administer.

Although it is useful to know about behavior modification and to apply it when appropriate, it clearly is only a part of the total process of motivation. As such all management techniques, it is not a panaea.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight